Bangladesh loses $14 billion a year due to air pollution, says a report from Greenpeace Southeast Asia and Center for Research on Energy and Clean Air published yesterday.
Air pollution caused by burning fossil fuel costs the world an estimated $2.9 trillion per year, or roughly 3.3 percent of the global gross domestic product (GDP). For Bangladesh this cost is greater than 5 percent of the GDP.
Furthermore, 96,000 (estimated) Bangladeshi children died before their fifth birthday in 2018, because of exposure to PM2.5 – atmospheric particulate matter with a diameter of less than 2.5 micrometers. PM2.5 is dangerous because it is lighter than other types of particulate matter, and tends to stay in the air longer.
Air pollution generated from burning fossil fuel continues to affect billions of people every day, and is now a major threat to children's health, particularly in low income countries, the report adds.
The health and financial costs of air pollution in Bangladesh is a long-standing matter of concern, said Ainun Nishat, an eminent environmental expert.
"We got the funds to fight environmental pollution, but our bureaucratic system did not use the funds properly to combat air pollution. Fossil fuel-generated air pollution is responsible for many diseases," he added.
"Air pollution has become a major concern for Bangladesh, especially in Dhaka," said Sharmeen Mobin Bhuiyan, professor of Health Economics at Dhaka University.
She added that although all types of pollution create health hazards, airborne diseases are a threat to public health with "huge monetary significance."
Polluted air causes approximately 4.5 million premature deaths worldwide every year, with 40,000 children dying before their fifth birthday because of exposure to PM2.5, the report shows.
Air pollution increases the incidence of chronic and acute illnesses, and contributes to millions of hospital visits and billions of work absences due to illness each year.
PM2.5 air pollution from fossil fuel is attributed to roughly 1.8 billion days of work absence due to illness each year worldwide, equating to an approximate annual economic loss of $101 billion.
Compared to other pollutants such as ozone and nitrogen dioxide, PM2.5 has the greatest health impact and cost due to increased work absences, while nations with large populations typically have a heavier absolute cost burden, according to the report.
Mainland China, the United States and India bear the highest economic costs of rising pollution, at an estimated $900 billion, $600 billion and $150 billion a year, respectively.
But as the cost of reliance on coal, oil and gas continues to soar, life-saving alternatives have become increasingly widespread and affordable.
The financial cost of dealing with polluted air is the treatment of respiratory and non-communicable diseases, as well as an economic valuation of the years of life lost through premature death, says Greenpeace.
Deaths of children and young people bring an economic cost through lost contribution to society and the economy, which can be large, the report further says.
Last year, about 91 percent of the global population lived in places where levels of air pollution exceeded guidelines set by the World Health Organization.